If you eat natural foods, or want to learn more about them, reading The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia will be a treat. The book is an invitation to learn the lore, health properties, and use of more than a thousand familiar and unusual foods and herbs. Each entry consists of a description, a little history or legend, the health benefits, and how to buy (or find) and use it. Author Rebecca Wood clearly delights in her subject--her writing is warm, like love letters to these intriguing foods. "I don't know what I love most about asafetida--its knock-your-socks-off sulfurous aroma ... or ... its pungent but pleasant and satisfying flavor," she writes of the herb also known as devil's dung. "I also love the way the word rolls off my tongue." Not all the entries are complimentary, though--Wood tried to like banana squash, but ended up feeding it to her chickens. Dotting the food entries are sidebars of recipes, preparation suggestions, and weird information that doesn't fit anywhere else: how horses get sunburned, why young wives fed their elderly husbands celery in the 1600s, tips for not crying over onions, and how to harvest natural chewing gum, for example. You may start by looking up a particular food, but you'll linger, reading just for the pleasure of it. --Joan Price
From Library Journal
In this update of a book originally published in 1983, Wood, author of the award-winning The Splendid Grain (LJ 2/15/97), provides an alphabetical listing of more than 1000 whole foods: grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, seaweeds, fungi, sweeteners, fats, oils, herbs, and spices. Entries include historical information, health benefits, uses, and buying guidelines. Sidebars studded throughout the text contain interesting anecdotes, recipes, and even the occasional poem. Wood includes a helpful section on how to store whole foods and a list of mail-order sources. She derives her information about the healing properties of foods from a combination of Western nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine, and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Although some readers may be skeptical of Wood's claims for health benefits that have not been clinically proven, the book is filled with practical information that would be useful to anyone wanting to further their food horizons. Recommended for public and academic libraries.AJane La Plante, Gordon B. Olson Lib., Minot State Univ., ND
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